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LaMar, Massucco, Modica win graduate student prizes for gender research

photo of Tanya in front of computer screen

Tanya Lamar

Sep 28 2020

“Data Science is an exploding field, and those learning the skills will be in powerful positions to effect change in the world,” asserts Tanya LaMar, PhD candidate in the Stanford School of Education and awardee of this year’s Marjorie Lozoff Prize. Maria Massucco, who is pursuing a PhD in Italian with a PhD minor in Feminism, Gender and Sexuality Studies, was awarded the Marilyn Yalom Prize for her emphasis on “the way that certain works of literature emphasize the experiences of particular bodies as organisms that age, that reproduce, that fall ill or are harmed.”   The Myra Strober Prize has been awarded to Justine Modica, History PhD candidate, for her article on  “How Women’s Oral History Collections Reveal the “Silent” History of Sexual Violence,” based on Professor Estelle Freedman’s November Faculty Research Fellows talk.  All three prizes are awarded by the Clayman Institute for Gender Research.

Both the Lozoff and Yalom prizes require nomination by a Clayman Institute Academic Affiliate, while the Strober prize is awarded to the student writer with an article that is both high quality and widely read in Gender News, the Institute’s monthly newsletter.  Lozoff provides funding of $2,000 for research, Yalom $1,500 primarily for research or conference travel costs, while Strober’s $1,500 encourages students to finesse their writing on gender research topics for a general audience.  More about each of the prizes may be found on the Clayman Institute website here.

photo of Massucco
Maria Massucco

The exploding growth in data science worldwide convinced Lozoff prize winner LaMar of the importance of ensuring women have equal access to data science education and influential positions in the field as it expands. “History has shown that as fields become more dominant, the positions of power are often exclusively filled by men,” says LaMar.  Her “study will inform how to make K-12 [data science] education gender equitable by drawing upon the experience of women in three phases of a data science pathway (industry, university, and K-12),” and “will focus on generating recommendations on how the field can adjust to women,” rather than forcing women to change to fit the field.  Touting the ability of those who become data scientists to “change the world,” LaMar intends to “uncover who has access to the field (via K-12 education or undergraduate study), who takes on roles as data scientists and data science leaders (industry), and in what ways girls and women should be recruited, included, and valued in these spaces so they can thrive.”  Her findings will be presented at a future conference or in a published article.
Massucco’s focus, in contrast, is on “twentieth century Italian literature with particular attention to the opposition of essentialist and constructivist understandings of gender.” In particular, she reflects on the work of Italian author Elsa Morante, and how the author’s “undeniable fixation  on the existential side of sexed existence constitutes a philosophical investment in the question of gender.”  Massucco notes that in Italian literature comparable to Morante’s, “characters oscillate between feeling themselves a part of a ‘common’ universal genderedexperience and feeling themselves completely isolated in their madness, suffering, cruelty or bliss.” Her conclusion, which was among her research to be shared at a future conference, states that, “In order to better understand a text’s gender obsession, it is therefore not enough to look at the sex and sexuality of the characters; we must also address the fields of imagistic reference employed in characterizing them.” Massucco was the first to receive the Yalom prize since the death last year of Marilyn Yalom, a former director and senior scholar at the Clayman Institute who was a groundbreaking scholar in gender studies.

photo of Justine
Justine Modica

Modica explained that her article covered a talk given at the Clayman Institute by Professor of History Estelle Freedman about her research on the ways women described experiences of sexual violence before the “Me Too” movement brought sexual violence into more widespread public discourse.  During her talk, Modica wrote, Freedman described how she and her research team examined interview transcripts housed by dozens of women’s oral history projects, prompting her to ask: “What can the analysis of digitized women’s oral histories contribute to our understandings of the history of sexual assault and harassment and to contemporary responses to sexual violence?”  Freedman’s team found that from the 2,700 historical interviews they analyzed, 27 percent “have some speech related to sexual violence or harassment.”  Modica plans to use the funds from the Myra Strober Prize to travel to Seattle to do interviews with some of the child care compensation activists she is writing about in her dissertation. 
The Clayman Institute’s Lozoff, Yalom and Strober Prizes continue the commitment to providing much needed research funding to promising Stanford graduate student gender scholars as they prepare for careers in the academy and beyond.  

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and proposes workable solutions.